Some of the best things to do when you discover a burst water pipe include shutting off your water valve, opening your faucets, and calling a professional plumber.
Damaged pipes are the leading cause of residential water damage. They are a common and costly part of homeownership. If a water pipe bursts in your house, it’s critical to act quickly—the first moments following a water pipe burst are the most important if you want to avoid serious damage to your home.
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12 things to do after a water pipe burst
1. Turn off the water
The very first thing you’ll want to do is stop that water flow! Locate the water shutoff valve (probably in a deep dank corner of your basement) and immediately turn off the water to prevent any more damage.
It’s probably also a good idea to shut off the electricity to be safe.
2. Open a faucet (cold taps first!)
When water freezes, it expands with incredible force: the pressure inside a pipe can go from 40 pounds per square inch to 40,000 psi. Pipes burst exactly because they can’t hold that kind of intense pressure.
This is why it’s important to open a faucet immediately after shutting off the water valve, which will relieve any remaining pressure on the pipes. And because the cold temperatures are the most likely culprit, prioritize opening those cold taps first.
Key Takeaway Relieve additional pressure on your pipes by opening your faucets.
3. Call a plumber
Once you’ve performed the critical first triage of shutting off the pipes and opening the faucets, it’s time to get a professional involved. Get a plumber on the scene as soon as you can to minimize the long-term damage of your burst water pipe.
4. Start documenting the damage
Once you’ve got the emergency in hand, start taking photos of the mishap. It’s critical to document any damage to your home and possessions before you begin your clean up and repairs.
Don’t toss any soggy keepsakes in the trash just yet. You’ll want as much evidence as possible on your side when you contact your insurance company.
5. Clean up the scene
The last thing you want is to let anything in your house get moldy, so go get your best mops and start soaking up every last drop of leaky water.
Everything that has come into contact with your water leak needs to be thoroughly dried out, cleaned, and disinfected. Depending on the severity of water damage in your home, you may consider bringing in mold prevention and restoration specialists at this point in your cleanup.
Key Takeaway Water leads to mold if you let it sit, so get rid of as much water as you can as soon as you can!
6. Turn up the heat
It’s important to remember that cold temperatures are the enemy here, so start pumping in heat from fans into your coldest rooms as soon as you can. Long term, consider insulating your walls to prevent your pipes from freezing in the future.
7. Open your doors
If your pipes live hidden behind closet or pantry doors, it’s time to let them out to breathe—it’s crucial to let the warm air heat them up. If needed, consider heating the most vulnerable pipes with a hair dryer.
8. Cover the leak
Covering the leak with a piece of rubber is an effective way to give yourself extra protection if the water continues leaking. This should be done in conjunction with placing a clamp (ideally a C-Clamp) over the broken pipe.
Pro Tip You can improvise by adding a block of wood over the rubber before fastening a clamp. The wood will spread the pressure and help prevent the pipe from collapsing.
9. Cut out the damaged pipe
Usually, it’s a good idea to leave this to the professionals. But if you’ve got the experience, the courage, and a pipe cutter, cutting out the damaged area of the pipe is a necessary next step towards rehabilitating your pipe’s overall health.
10. Clean and flux surfaces
This is a bit more advanced than the average handyman’s bandwidth, but it is important to clean the inside and outside of your damaged pipe with plumber’s sand cloth or emery paper to keep your pipes healthy going forward.
Once clean, brush the surfaces with flux—or at least make sure your plumber did.
Key Takeaway Once your leaky situation is in hand, maintain your pipes’ long-term health by cleaning them inside and out.
11. Use a repair sleeve
Once you have removed the damaged inch or two of burst water pipe, slide a repair sleeve over your pipe to reconnect the temporarily separated cylinders of piping. Center the sleeve over the pipe ends so that a half-inch of pipe rests inside the sleeve.
12. Solder the joint
This stage of the repair process requires a torch flame, so it’s best to call a professional. They will hold the end of the torch’s flame against one side of the joint and the tip of the solder wire against the other side of the same joint. Ultimately, it will melt and completely fill the joint.
How to make sure a water pipe burst doesn’t happen again
The most effective preventive measure to avoid another burst water pipe emergency is winterizing your home.
- Add insulation to keep your pipes from dipping under their freezing point in winter’s coldest months
- Apply pipe sleeves or heat tape to pipes that are likeliest to freeze first, like exposed pipes under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom
- Newspaper is also an effective DIY source of insulation if you’re looking to pinch your pennies
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Why do water pipes burst in the winter?
The cold temperatures freeze the pipes! When water freezes, it expands. The additional pressure this creates is what leads to most water pipe bursts. To prevent pipes from freezing, the best thing to do is turn your water off.
When is it safe to drink my water again?
If your water service has been shut off and recently restored, your pipes need to be flushed for 30 minutes to ensure your safety. Water sitting stagnant in pipes may contain lead, copper, and other sediments that are not safe for drinking and cooking.